Best New Books of 2011: Dan B.’s Picks

This week we’re trying something new for our book-a-day blog, which is to present our favorite books from this year. If Newspapers, Magazines and Online Booksellers can do it, why can’t your local library? Different staff members will take turns each day letting you know their top 5 favorite books from this year. Then, next week we’ll do the same thing, but tell you our five favorite older books that we each discovered this year.

To recap, this week = top 5 new books from 2011; next week = top 5 “new to us” older books that we discovered this year.

If you’re familiar with my previous posts you may recall that I love Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Humor, and Classics. My picks for the 5 best books of 2011- presented in no particular order – certainly reflect my reading tastes:

The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card
Danny North is alternately picked on and ignored by his family. Everyone else can do magic and the older family members teach the younger ones, but Danny just doesn’t seem to have any talent. So, naturally, he runs away, but ends up learning more about who he is where his family has come from. The Norths are actually descended from the Old Norse Gods Odin, Thor, Loki and the rest, and their power has been diminished since Loki closed the gate to Westil 1,400 years ago. And it turns out Danny just might be able to open it again. Interwoven are also chapters about the land of Westil and a young man named Wad, who is actually very, very old, but just can’t remember that other life he once had. Read my full review.

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
Jack Holloway is a prospector on the planet Zara XXIII and has found the mother-load of one of the most valuable gems in the galaxy. But, the even greater discovery he made that same day was of a small creature he dubs “Fuzzy.” Why is that the greater discovery? Because it turns out that the Fuzzies just might be sentient, and if they are, that means that ZaraCorp is on the planet illegally and has to give up all of the resources its mining, and thus begins a plan involving deception, arson, and murder – winding up with a suspenseful courtroom drama to determine the fate of the Fuzzies.  Read my full review.

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
The latest in the popular Dresden Files series is the story of Harry Dresden solving … *spoiler alert* … his own murder! Yes, as the title suggests, Harry is a ghost and has been sent back to find out who killed him and why, and to protect his friends who are now in mortal danger. This turns out to be much harder than you’d think, for as a ghost, Harry can’t touch the real world and most people can’t see or hear him, either. To make matters worse, six months have passed since he was gunned down and his friends and loved ones were each greatly impacted and changed by Harry’s untimely death.  Does he solve his own murder? What happens to his friends? And how can the series continue if Harry’s dead? The answers lie within, but do yourself a favor and start at the beginning with Storm Front, which I’ve reviewed before.

The Astounding, the Amazing and the Unknown by Paul Malmont
This historical novel is set during World War II on the American home front. Based on some real events, it tells the story of what happened when authors from the early days of Science Fiction magazines were recruited by the Navy to form a think tank to turn Sci-Fi ideas (ray guns, invisibility, etc.) into reality. Throw in a mystery involving Tesla’s quest for free and abundant electricity and Malmont has given us a great story with lots of twists and turns that will appeal to fans of historical fiction and suspense, as well as science fiction. Read my full review.

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
Certainly the publishing event of the year was the long-awaited new novel in Martin’s highly popular Song of Ice and Fire series (helped, in no small part, by the HBO program). It is a massive tome (at about 1,100 pages), and one should absolutely not start with this, the fifth book in the series, but instead begin with A Game of Thrones. The events of Dance actually follow the third book and take place concurrently with the fourth book, but tell the stories of different characters in different parts of Martin’s fully realized Fantasy world. One of the most appealing – yet challenging – aspects of Martin’s style is that he has such a huge cast of characters, and that the tale is told from many different points of view.

P.S. I probably would have put Stephen King’s new book about a man going back in time to try and stop the Kennedy assassination, 11/22/63, on this list, but it just came out and I haven’t finished it yet.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Let us know what your favorite books of the year are in the comments!

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